‘Artisans of Assam’ owner Bharati Bajaj has provided local artisans with a way of living along with making sure her products are eco-friendly.
The coronavirus pandemic might have turned the table for people, a lot of them twisted it to their side. Bharati Bajaj from Golaghat, Assam, is one such example who has opened a digital store of home decor while also helping local artisans from Assam. From Open Eye Mirrors to Hanging Planters, the store, ‘Artisans of Assam’ creates products keeping in mind the need for a “sustainable environment”.
In an interview with Local Samosa, Bharati Bajaj said that she had to visit every store in Assam for her ideas to get executed. Here’s an excerpt from the interview.
Where did it all begin for you? Can you walk us through your journey so far?
It all began with watching one documentary on Netflix, then me going plant-based, and since then, I also started to get into a sustainable lifestyle.
Can you tell us something about you?
Before this, I was working as a Deputy Flagship Store manager for a celebrity sourcing platform called Date The Ramp. Passing out from NIFT, Shillong with a Master’s in Fashion Management, I just did what I was “supposed to do”, and was doing quite well. Only after a year and a half of fast city life in Mumbai, I got to come back to my hometown, Golaghat, because of the pandemic. With the situation worsening in Mumbai, I had very little hope left for going back and joining my work.
Please share What, When, & How of starting Artisan of Assam?
I had a lot of time in hand, so I went to a market in my hometown called “Bet Mahol”, meaning “Rattan Colony”, for some purchases. After some introspection and looking around at the people from my town, I decided to just sign up on Instagram to bridge the gap between online and offline. To help my people earn a decent livelihood, I got the products, borrowed a DSLR from a friend, shot and edited everything, and did some pricing. On the 21st of August, 2020 was my first ever online sale, and the response was terrific, at least more than my expectations. But I realized I didn’t have shipping figured out completely, as courier companies were charging even Rs. 800 & 1200 for single parcels. I was worried at that time, but since I had no option, I still paid for that and worked it out later on.
What according to you makes Artisans of Assam stand out?
Our USP is new age utility products. I guide my artisans to make, adopt, and design modern boho pieces to cater to new customer demand in a better way. We try to introduce product designs that are new and not available on the internet to purchase in India. Another factor is pricing and then my relationship with all the artisans & vendors in Bet Mahol.
Where do you sell?
I had collaborated with other initiatives that had their Shopify store in place and they actually did let me put up the products on their site and emailed me the orders list so that I could fulfill them. I’ve fulfilled around 180+ orders so far and raised nearly 2.5L for the people.
We are learning. Learning to differentiate between so many types of natural fibers, cost of materials, working of the website, buying & selling, dealing with different kinds of people, cost of packing materials, and even learning the art of packaging! The list is never-ending!
How do you reach out to your artisans? Is there any training involved?
How I reached out to the artisans? I don’t know how to answer that. I just went from shop to shop in that area to explain my idea. My mother didn’t ask a single question when I told her I needed to buy products worth 10 K, and to my surprise, she just handed it to me at one go. The vendors and artisans saw the results, and then they started reaching out to me on their own. After seeing a rise in demand for certain products, and a shortage of artisans due to lockdown, I did go for field research to find more artisans who are living on the outskirts and might need help. I plan to do this till I keep receiving messages from artisans for stock that they are unable to sell out or requests from the people from my Instagram community for customization.
How are you planning to expand?
I plan to expand by bringing in more things from the East on the table and mixing a little creativity that resides within me with traditional craft & loom. I want to keep things traditional but aesthetic, practical, and functional.
One advice/suggestion you’d like to give aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
One thing, I truly believe in, to thrive, one has to fall in love with the failures as much as we fall in love with the achievements. That’s because challenges in any business are inevitable but stopping there or moving forward is always a choice.
How are you using Social Media to promote your homegrown brand?
Social media helped me a great deal, in fact, it was only because of Instagram account that I was able to do all of this!
What is your Inspiration:
It was my drive to go sustainable and support people of my region who otherwise do not usually get help in my town. My idea was also to make them realize their value and the value of art & skills that they have but were planning to leave because it wasn’t paying them enough to live a decent life.
Star Products: Open Eye Mirror, Hanging Planters, Floral Mirrors & curtain tie backs.
Check Instagram Page of Artisans of Assam here!